History Of Rock N’ Roll Guitar Part 2
This article provides a glimpse into the origins of one of the most original and revolutionary developments in acoustic guitar design and construction: the Ovation guitar, and its lower-priced cousin the Applause guitar.
The Ovation guitar was a revolution in the history of guitar making. Its innovations include the use of synthetic materials in guitar construction, the mathematically designed “bowl back”, the use of onboard preamps and piezoelectric pickups, and the offset sound holes of the Adamas series.
Charles Kaman, an aeronautical engineer, and amateur guitar player were born in 1917. He was raised in Washington, DC, and by his teenage years, he had two main interests: guitar playing, and aviation design. These interests would later combine to produce the Ovation guitar.
As a teen, Kaman entered model airplane design contests held at his local playground. He also entered a national guitar competition sponsored by the makers of Kool and Chesterfield cigarettes. Kaman made it to the finals and won the opportunity to play guitar onstage with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra. Afterward, Dorsey offered Kaman $75 per week to play guitar with the band, but Kaman turned it down.
Instead of taking the opportunity to play guitar professionally with Dorsey’s orchestra, Kaman had decided to pursue his interest in aeronautics. He attended Catholic University in Washington and graduated in 1940 with a Bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
Frustrated in his ambition to become a pilot because he was deaf in one ear, Kaman instead became a propeller designer in the helicopter division of United Aircraft, working for inventor Igor Sikorsky. By 1943, he was the head of aerodynamics. But when he developed a new propeller design that would dramatically increase helicopter stability, he was told that the company had an inventor already (Sikorsky) and didn’t need another one.